Ocean Warming around Galapagos Corals

Researchers have recently analyzed the natural temperature of the coral reefs around the Galapagos Islands and have discovered that they have been warming since the 1970’s. The University of Arizona-led research team was extremely surprised because the records for sea temperature did not indicate any signs of warming. Scientists have long thought that the colder deep waters in the Pacific would prevent the region from warming.

Gloria Jimenez, a UA doctoral candidate in geosciences, studies cores taken from coral heads in Galapagos National Park. Corals are sources of the history of ocean temperatures since they have seasonal growth layers. The cores have helped Jimenez look at the years 1940 – 2010 and conclude that regional ocean temperatures increased almost 0.4 degrees Fahrenheit. One of the important factors that contributed to the warming of the ocean were the very strong El Nino of 1982, which led to the death of several coral reefs in the southern part of the islands.

In 2010, Cole, a paleoclimatologist, and her team went to the Galapagos and collected several cores from Porites lobar corals using a drill. The cores showed evidence of damage since the time the corals stopped growing after the El Nino.

Coral skeletons contain calcium carbonate; however, when the water is cold, corals substitute strontium. Cole’s team chemically analyzed the cores to find out more about temperature. The ratio of strontium to calcium was less, suggesting that the oceans around the Galapagos are indeed warming.

“Losing the corals would be an enormous blow to the underwater biodiversity.” Jiminez says. More research is currently being done to find out about ocean warming and the various ways in which we can protect the Galapagos environment.

-Sajni Vederey

Sources: Science Daily

Picture Credits: The Aussie Flashpacker